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My God Was Bigger Than Your God

When I was a believer, my god was huge.  My god could beat up your god.  My god could lift the heaviest things in the universe.  My god knew everything, even the thoughts of every person on earth, and was acquainted with every blade of grass.  My god cared for babies and dogs and the smallest of sparrows, and knew every one by name.  My god named  every one of them, for christ’s sake.  He made them. He loved them.  He loved me.  He loved sinners.  He loved haters.  He loved and pitied them, and hoped for their return to his embrace.  He was not threatened by them.

He was not threatened, because he was an immense and all-powerful god.  He made us come into being, and if we ignored or made fun of him he could take it, because he was the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, world without end.  We come and go, we small humans with our puny lives and our adolescent humor: my god had heard every whisper, every lie, every disrespect, every giggle.  It was beyond his merest notice, because we were like mosquitoes, to him: tiny little nothings, whom he loved so much still, buzzing, annoying.   Drawing cartoons of him, long white beard, stern brow, with some comical feature to diminish him, make him our size: a buffoon.  A big dumb papa, having made some mistake in our creation, ha ha, look at papa and his foibles!

Beneath him.

I pity the faith of the isil isis islamic state (surely I will not capitalize that when my god goes without)– what wizard of oz do they worship?  How tinny and flimsy, how cheap, is this deity?  Did the French Charlie bruise his tender feelings?   He couldn’t take a little teasing?  That’s lame.   And, sly, this one, asking a legion of mosquitoes (tiny little nothings) to defend him.  Sly, and slick: biological warfare, scary for the ease with which these pests are lured, with pink lemonade promises.   A phantasm of virgins, a chimera of figs and honey.  Die for me, little nothing, and you will see Elysium.

I pity you because when I was a believer my god was captain of the universe, strong and powerful, to infinity and beyond; and your god is a skinny evil prison warden in a bad made-for-tv movie.  Your sacrifices mean nothing, you will never have your heaven, because your god will never win.

Absurdly Indulgent Breakfast Casserole

I swear, no one but me likes this, pretty sure it’s because they’re all better at self-preservation.  But I’m allowing this slow death through heart disease, so I LOVE it.

FAT Eggs

2 TBLS flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

6 eggs

1 Pint (yes, that’s two cups) heavy cream

8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese, or, frankly, more

lots and lots of chopped scallions, like half a cup of the green part or quarter cup of green and scant quarter cup of the white part

greased 9 or 10 inch casserole dish (or equivalent, like 7 X 11 inch); and, preheat oven to 350 degrees

In large bowl whisk together dry ingredients, and add one egg, then the second egg.  It will be thick and ugly, but blend well, and add another and another egg as seems smooth to do so.  When all eggs are incorporated, add the heavy cream slowly.  When all is smooth, pour into your prepared dish.  Cover with cheese.  Cover that with scallions.  Place in oven, and, depending on the dimensions of the dish, bake for 30-50 minutes.  You’ll know when it’s done– it smells amazing, and the edges are browned, but also the middle is jiggly but set.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.  Serves 6.  Or 4.  Or, over the course of a couple days, if I’m honest, one.

Merry Rictus!!

In my next life I’m a guy, for one, and devoutly Jewish, for two.  There’s a gender- and culture-specific kick in the ass about this holiday that makes me manic and unpleasant, and I’d like to avoid that when reincarnated.  For several years I have said I will, I will, I will take more time off before the holiday next year, and ultimately I do take some time off, but only in response to a last-minute panicked review of all that needs doing before guests are due to arrive at my house.  Did I say guests?  I mean family— so, if family, why so uptight?

Growing up, our drab, dull, charcoal and brown and 1970’s decor sloppy messy house was, at Christmas, made special.  Good smells, brighter lights, Bing Crosby and a blinky candy cane at the front door.  There was candy, there were cookies, there was a swollen feeling of plenty.  Good cheer seeped throughout that ugly house.  I enjoy remembering that even now.

I want that for the prince.  And I’ve learned that I’m not my mom, with her blithe talent for taking humble bits and making them, McGyver-like, into classic confections and charming decor.  I have to work at it, sloppily, badly, gracelessly; I have to buy more to compensate for the lack of organic tradition and natural talent.  That takes time.  That steals sleep. That creates panic.

It’s not the portrait of the perfect family, the facebook photo, that I’m after.  I don’t care how this LOOKS– I’m wanting the prince to feel a certain way, and to remember this in thirty or forty years.

(…hopefully he remembers the effect, not the grouchy grimace of the queen of bad planning…)


…thanks all for checking in from time to time, and best wishes for a Happy New Year…!


Goodbye, Friend

I lost a friend this week.  We’d never been out to lunch, or traded stories of how we met our husbands.  We never knew each other’s favorite color or sent a card for a birthday.  But we were friends, in our limited way.  If I’d driven the kids’ school bus, we’d have been real friends.  Had we been neighbors, we’d have been real friends.  But if a friend simply is someone with whom you’re sympathetic, someone for whom you particularly wish happiness and good fortune,  Mrs. Bell and I were friends.

As the pastor shrieked into the microphone about the good lord ushering Mrs. Bell to her final rest, and screamed about the goodness of the lord in giving us fifty-four years of Mrs. Bell, and then yelled at us to remember the glory of the lord in all we do, I kept thinking that Mrs. Bell would find it funny that pastor was obviously trying to wake her.  “Lord?  good LORD…keep it down there now Pastor, the rest of they’all aren’t deaf and I’m already saved, save your own vocal cords, mister Pastor!”  I can hear her laughing now.  That would’ve been her take on it, as it was in all things, in every struggle and disappointment.  She handled the bruised lemons life gave her with sweet humor, self-deprecation, gratitude.

Her life and death were lessons to me.   I’ll try now for some time to understand how a single woman can set so many pillars just so, and support so many to the depth and breadth that she did.  I don’t mean money, for she had none.   Rather, she arranged this niece, and that aunt, and this brother-in-law, and that friend, assigning expectations to each without any one the wiser, to build a foundation that will survive her.  When she told one, ‘you be a good girl, now,’ that wasn’t a suggestion or warning, that was an order.  I saw that today, what those good-hearted orders have wrought.  I’d thought that she was the hub without which the family would falter and fail.  I learned instead that she was a master chess player who has taught the pieces how to play well together.

In memory of Yvonne Bell, 12/23/59-11/20/14


Mea Culpa

I’m now driving a Scion IQ, a car so tiny it elicits guffaws from small children who think it’s child-sized and therefore funny, like seeing Uncle Clyde in a too-tight shirt.  That’s fine, as it should be for a clown; I don’t mind being laughed at.  But the responses from other drivers have led me to believe I have a lot of apologizing to do.  To wit:

Dear other soccer parent in the enormous truck, I’m sorry that you felt a little insecure today, and needed to pull up so close to me in the parking lot, despite there being no lack of spaces all over, as you blocked my view of the players and made it impossible for the prince to see me once practice was over.  I imagine there are other days when you sidle up to pre-adolescent boys at the bank of urinals to compare and reassure yourself that your unit is, really, bigger than a 12 year old’s.

Dear gay couple behind me the other week,  I apologize for (apparently) starting an argument between you; I could not of course hear exactly what you were saying but the way you kept gesturing at my car and then slamming a palm on the dash of your SUV led me to believe that someone wanted the more fuel-efficient car, and someone else said “no, we need more room,” and someone lost that battle.

Dear guy in the Escalade, I’m so sorry that you’re late to work.  I know you think that my rather sedate 72 mph is what is angering you but while I’m sorry to be exceeding the speed limit by only 7 miles per hour I know it goes deeper than that, deep down to why you lease your car, and why I bought mine.  Your car is indeed impressive, but I know re-fueling every third day because you get 17 miles to the gallon is eating away at you, and seeing my car reminds you that you really need to stop for gas before you get to work, and that going past 80 mph is burning through even more fuel, and today your getting, like, only 12 mpg.  That must hurt, and I’m sorry.

Dear stupid guy in the beater truck, I’m sorry that you will never be aware enough to know why your making fun of my car is not demeaning to me but rather further validates my choice.  By the way, you’re overdue for inspection and I’m quite sure you won’t pass emissions this year.  Sorry about that.

Dear young lady in the Lexus who does not understand basic physics, I’m sorry that it escapes your understanding that being right on my butt will not make the car in front of me go any faster.  I’m sorry also that you lack the empathy to imagine what it feels like to have your front bumper about seven feet from my spinal cord as we’re going 68 mph in dense afternoon traffic.  Each of us has strengths and weaknesses and for you to have been blessed only with beauty and money is heart-wrenching.  I’m so sorry.

Finally: Dear almost every 18 wheeler driver, I’m sorry if I annoy or puzzle you, but thank you for always leaving enough room between your forty tons, and my one.

A High of 91

Things I dislike about summer:

Out trimming tall weeds, I see a neighbor hail me (a cartoonish man, mid-30’s, cigarette dangling ever from his lips, odd facial hair, gravel-voiced.  This guy might be hoarding seven thousand cans of beef stew for the coming apocalypse).  I stop the high-pitched weed trimmer long enough to catch his witty pearls: “Ha ha, he’s got you doin’ that now?  Hope you taught him how to do the laundry!  Ha ha ha!”  I smile and mentally reply, “whoa, little man!!  She needs to give you a few more lessons before you take that intellect out for a spin!  Ha ha ha!…”).

Cicadas.  Cicadas are evil, insistent.  They’re like the violins in Jaws, a crescendo of doom.  They screech, “WE WILL NOT DIE WE WILL NOT DIE WE WILL NOT DIE!”  Contrast them with the cricket– the polite, questioning cricket.  The cricket asks, “May we reside here?  Would it inconvenience you too much for us to call this yard home?”

Motorbikes.  Motorcycles.  Two-wheeled conveyance machines, which make fat men feel agile, old men feel young, young men feel immortal.  Dastardly, dangerous, obnoxiously loud– when these guys weave in and out of traffic going 80 they risk making my day a horror to remember– or, revving the engine at 11:30 at night they steal my peace, my sleep, my love for my fellow man.  Idiots– not all y’all, but most y’all.

Violent storm onsets– that roily boily oily sky, grey and green and sickly, the wind kicking up in late afternoon.  Not the sometime refreshing hurricane tailwind we had in Jersey– no, this has the pre-turmoil and aftermath quite like grandpa after four bean burritos. First: an unpleasant warning, then concentration is stolen by the storm and vision clouds… and when the storm clears the detritus lingers: the clouds of humidity, the stickiness, the cluster headache from the drop in barometric pressure.  The odor of ozone, piercing, unmistakable.

And finally, the children.  You would expect me to be tolerant, but I tire of seeing them, long past dark, out, around, shrieking and laughing and biking and dropping plastic crap and sidewalk chalk.  In spring they charm; in September, they are mini drunks-at-last-call.

Goodnight, children.  Goodnight hot air.  Goodnight, grandpas and motorbikes everywhere.

Death of a Smart, Funny Man

I wasn’t a rabid fan of Robin Williams but in the wake of his death I am reminded of many roles in movies in which he was fantastic–Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society in particular.  Now a bit haunted, I’ve watched some of his stand up on youtube and was struck also by how damn smart he was.

I’m pained by the type of torture that must have attended his last hours or days, the same empathy I feel when I hear of someone trapped in a years-long battle with bone cancer who might decide to end life rather than face more pain.

This is the time in a semi-fan’s eulogy to mention his mental health, maybe his addiction problems, and bemoan the fact that he should have gotten help.

However,while the media are PC enough to say that there should be no stigma to getting mental health help, while they claim we feel mental illness is really no different from physical illness– FAIL.

If Mr. Williams had had bone cancer, if he was known to have tried painkillers, morphine, marijuana, meditation, prayer, exercise, a macro diet, positive thinking– everything, to combat it, and had he found out despite all effort and repeated attempts and devout earnest wishing or prayer that the cancer had in fact returned, and had he known from experience that it just meant another uphill battle and more pain and had as a result killed himself– would there be this same reaction?

No.  Because at the root of it we minimize the pain of mental illness.  We do not give it the respect it deserves.

I assume that at 63 years old Mr. Williams had gotten help.  Dozens of times.  Had tried antidepressants, and TM and exercise and talk talk talk therapy.  Had long been intimate with what another depression meant.  I imagine him just tired, like, I can’t do this again, put my family through this, walk through this darkness.  I want to lay down, I want this over.

The guy was wicked smart, sensitive, intuitive.  When people say oh he should have gotten help, to whom should he have gone?  Who was as smart, as intuitive?  People think, oh, he should have told someone– but who?  I imagine few grasped how deep and broad his mind was.  Friends were astounded at his ability, how quickly his mind worked.  Few therapists or psychiatrists, I imagine, could stay with him to travel through the intricacies of that mind and light a way for him.

Suicide is not the answer for the vast vast majority of people,especially for people younger than 30.  But for Mr. Williams, I think it may have been.  To say he had so much to live for is to ignore his profound pain.

His family is devastated, of course, but they don’t seem shocked.  This did not come out of nowhere, it came out of a life sometimes in torment.  He knew well how vast that torment could be, and decided he would not suffer it again.

I respect his decision.





Men on Top

I’ve been seeing and reading quite a lot lately about the gender gap, the confidence gap, gender inequality in power positions, the dearth of women in politics and as CEOs and CFOs of the largest companies.  Women lack confidence.  Women wait until they are 110% ready to go for a promotion, men go when they are 60%.  Women ask for raises when they have all their ducks in a row and can boast flawless performance; men ask when they have a duckling or two because hey, can’t hurt to ask.

Why aren’t more women noticed, and promoted?  What’s been said is that women have to be bolder, have to be coached to be more confident.  Women won’t get squat if they don’t speak up, like men do.

Can we flip that?  Why aren’t we asking why we promote people who are lacking?  Why are we promoting men simply because they are confident, without delving into their competence?  Why do we accept the lesser candidate based on boldness alone?  If men ask for a promotion when they are 60% ready and they get it based on self-promotion, why aren’t we asking how he expects to manage that shortfall of his skillset?  Why are we satisfied with good enough?

Maybe the answer isn’t in asking women to “be like men.”  Maybe we– the selection committee, the professors, the interviewers– have to be more discerning, less distracted by the flash of self-assured smiles, more attuned to quieter miens of women, and more timid men, too, who are uncomfortable being audacious.  When a candidate is asked, “can you do this job,” and answers, honestly, “I will do my absolute best,’ we shouldn’t wait for the candidate who we know is full of it who says, “Absolutely.”  We ask the same, in error, of politicians — when everyone knows only fools act when the wiser would ponder.

The potential for excellence in leadership shouldn’t need a loudspeaker or PR machine of uber-confidence. Shouldn’t we let talent, intelligence, skills, education, character, and insight speak for themselves?

July: A Cheerful Recap

I have never liked summer, no.  The cons are too numerous to mention but bugs + sweat + cooking as little as possible = terrible horrible irritable me.  But this July– (shakes head, wry smile), she was a doozy.  Murphy’s Law oversaw the painstaking hand-scraping of all silver linings from clouds– and the shiny silver shavings are lodged in my eyes.

I’m best when challenged I suppose but I’m fucking sick of being so good at getting by, getting over, making do, making the best of things, counting my blessings (can’t, just can’t even think of that phrase without the song from VBS {vacation bible school for those who escaped the summer ritual) running through my head, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what god has done.”  If it’s now in your head, you’re most welcome.  I have Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor playing so it’s out of my head, sorry to get all snooty but I heard a bit of it on the commute home and had to hear the whole thing.  If you grooveshark it yourself you’ll go, Oh, I know this one!  So good.

Back to bitchin’.   The prince consort’s vehicle died an hour and a half away, with the prince and his dad stranded.  That mofo of a car is unsalvageably a bastard.

The fridge died– well, the fridge was in hospice anyway.  Woke up to the lilt of a semi idling in my kitchen every 17 minutes for exactly 11 minutes.  FanTASTIC.  I’d sooner have Miley Cyrus repeat “Whatever dude” in my ear round the clock.

Realized with a whimper, an eye-roll, and a mighty blow to my soul, that I have tendinitis in my foot, finishing (for now) my five am forty-minute forays into the early dark of my neighborhood.  Alliteratively: fuck you, foot.

Bad news of this tiresome sort is unsustainable– a fridge must be bought, and was.  A new car must be purchased and essentially has been, and will be in our possession in a week or so.  My foot will heal, as feet do.

But this July has sucked monkey dick, it really has.  I’m tired.  As I told my therapist, I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself and am desperate to get back to being grateful.  These days are long but the years are so short– I don’t want to spend a minute more being anything but delighted for the gift of this life.


The prince handles the archaeological find, unearthed while digging through piles of books, looking for the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

“This– thing— it’s called a–?” {his finger makes circles in the air}…

“It’s called a rotary phone–”

“-so if we plugged this into the wall you could call someone–” {disbelieving.  This thing weighs 8 lbs.  An anvil is as likely a communication device.}

“Yes.  I spent hours on it as a teenager, talking to my boyfriend.  Right out in public, in the middle of the house.  My mom and dad could hear every word I said.”

“–oh my gosh–” {shakes head in pity}

“Have you ever heard of a party line?” {I explain this antiquity}

“Oxymoron.  Not a party…”

“You are correct.”